Link

How I afforded a six month road trip

There’s been a fantastic response to my Sydney Morning Herald article about wanting to have a second child, most of it really supportive and positive. A couple of grumpy people have also been wondering how I managed to afford all the travelling. A better question to ask would have been, “how on earth did you mange to write that article with a teething toddler in the house?!” Not that my finances are anyone’s business, but sure, let’s talk about money.

I want to preface this by saying that while I am not wealthy, in some ways I am very privileged. I am a white middle class person who has had access to higher education, and who has the safety net of an extended family who are financially secure enough to be able to bail me out in a dire emergency. I also have no dependents other than my child, who is currently too small to cost very much. I have some savings in the bank that I accumulated while working my arse off before my baby arrived. However I am anything but rich. The only thing of any value that I own is my second hand car. I shop at Kmart, my child almost exclusively has hand-me-down clothes and toys, and I use second-hand cloth nappies, which has saved both me and the environment an absolute fortune. On the plus side this means that I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about when I was off galavanting around Australia, or as I like to call it, raising my baby. So how exactly did I manage to afford a six month road trip around Australia with my 3.5 month old baby, and how have we also managed to visit eight different countries in the last 1.5 years?

1) I stayed with family and friends. All of my trips, both on land and by air, were structured around visiting people. Only on rare occasions did I pay for accommodation. An old uni friend and her kids live in Port Moresby, my extended family live all the way across the UK and through parts of Europe, my ex is Swedish, my aunt is a teacher in Bali, and my parents are close to retirement and have been working short contracts on aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land, and volunteering with NGOs in Cambodia. I also have a widespread community of queer and activist friends scattered across Australia. If I’m honest we probably slept in more spare rooms than campsites on our trip.

2) We ate at home. Visiting people also usually means lots of cooking at home, so airfares and petrol aside, the main cost of travelling is a supermarket shop every three or four days, which you’d be doing whether you were at home or away. NB: flights to most parts of the world are pretty cheap these days if you’re willing to fly with the shitty airlines. Also infants virtually fly for free until the age of two, which is why I’m trying to get overseas travelling out of my system before the clock ticks over. It means having a squirming toddler on your lap, which is my version of hell, but I have a knack of forgetting this the moment we’ve touched down.

3) I sublet my apartment. This can be a huge hassle, but it saves me a lot of cash. Disclaimer: Another privilege I have is that I live in a queer housing coop, where rent is set at a quarter of your income, in accordance with international housing affordability standards. If this makes you angry, don’t direct it at me—get angry at the ridiculous over-inflation of Sydney rental prices. Rent should be capped at a quarter of everyone’s income, not just mine.

4) I camped in free campsites. There’s this brilliant app called wikicamps that lists all the free and cheap campsites around Australia. This often means no showers, or sometimes even toilets, but the stars, the trees, and the sea are all free!

For the first part of my trip I was on paid maternity leave, and for the rest I was on the single parent pension. I’m not interested in having an argument about who is deemed “worthy” and “unworthy” of welfare, or who is deemed worthy or unworthy of travelling. I don’t recall Centrelink having a clause that in order to receive benefits you have to stay at home all winter in cold miserable Sydney, sinking deeper and deeper into “I have no life” postnatal depression, like happens to so many new parents. I work very very hard for very little money. Raising a child is an invaluable service to society, and any economist will tell you that a capitalist economy would not survive solely on 9 to 5 workers—we also need people at home raising the kids. I put so much effort into having this kid, and I didn’t want to stick my newborn in childcare and get straight back to work. I fully support everyone’s right to do this if this is what they want or need to do, but it’s not the way I wanted to do things. I am so grateful that I live in a country where human life and equality are valued. In places like the USA, where welfare is virtually nonexistent, it’s only the wealthy who can afford to stay at home with their kids in those early, vital years. I would be heartbroken to live in a society where raising our future generations wasn’t valued, and where only the rich and the partnered were deemed worthy of reproducing.

I am a member of several Facebook groups dedicated to solo parents who are currently living on the road, travelling the country or even the world in tents, caravans, and boats. (To date I am the only one who has done it in a polkadot teardrop camper though.) The vast majority of these parents aren’t very well off at all. They’re just really good at thinking outside the box, brave enough to go out seeking new adventures, and dedicated to giving their children a well-rounded experience of life. After all, if you’re going to be stuck at home raising a baby, why not put that home on wheels and see some of the world while you’re at it?!

Advertisements
Make A Mother’s Day

Make A Mother’s Day

18518385_10154419469745636_1207092098712437389_o

There was nothing different about today. I still got bitten, vomited on, and howled at just the same. I got the exact same amount of slobbery kisses, wicked glinty grins, and warm little hands down my cleavage. I cleaned up the exact same amount of shit as yesterday, and I spent the same amount of hours tidying up mess, folding laundry, and soothing with the boob. I barely noticed it was Mothers’ Day.

There’s this romantic notion that Mothers’ Day is all about pampering, spoiling, and honouring mothers for the hard work they do. But when you’re a solo mum with a non-verbal child, it’s a bit of a non-event. During these baby years it’s the partner who buys the chocolates, picks the flowers, and helps the kid to make a card. I guess I could have done those things myself, but it’d have felt a bit weird. My kid is too young to make me a pet rock or pick out something horrible from Crazy Clarke’s. My kid is too young to bring me burnt toast in bed, or a cold cup of tea. My kid can’t even properly say mummy yet, let alone “happy mothers’ day, mum”. It was really lovely, then, to log into facebook today and see the solo parents forum feeds full of mums wishing each other a happy day. And it was even more lovely to meet up with a single mum friend for breakfast who had had the forethought to go out and buy us matching “best mum ever” mugs. Because we are, godammit, but there’s rarely anyone there to tell us. So if you’re reading this, go grab a solo mum and tell her she’s doing a fucking amazing job. I guarantee it’ll make a mother’s day.

 

No Sex Please–We’re Mothers

No Sex Please–We’re Mothers

I watched some porn the other week and the only thing I felt was a certain melancholic nostalgia. “Never again will I have sex with anyone that young and carefree,” I thought, as I watched a spunky tattooist fist a baby-faced butch on some kind of medical reclining chair. “I hope that’s strong enough to support them both,” I worried, as I ate another chocolate biscuit. The reason people supposedly like porn is because they like to superimpose themselves into these scenes. Problem is, I just can’t see myself in that sort of scenario anymore. What would I be doing in a tattoo parlour with a toddler anyway?! They’d be pulling all the needles off the shelf and trying to drink the rubbing alcohol. And even if I managed to get the tattooist out of her parlour and into my lounge room, the baby would be so excited to have a visitor that they’d refuse to go to bed, and then they’d probably wake up ten minutes into the fisting scene and I’d have to go and resettle them, twice, by which point the lube would have dried up.

The other reason it’s just not going to happen is that I have ZERO sex drive. Still. It’s been almost a year and a half now. This is by far the longest I have ever gone without an orgasm. I didn’t have a vaginal birth, but sex is still the last thing I feel like. This is one of the moments when I am SO glad I’m single. Any partner of mine would have left me for a good vibrator long ago. Or else I’d have stabbed them to death for suggesting that we partake in such a vulgar act. But even stranger than this lack of sex drive is a lack of caring. It’s incredibly liberating to not feel horny. There’s nothing else clouding my head or leaving me feeling lacking. There’s no longing for something I don’t have, no time wasted on crushes, no agonising, drawn-out heartache when things go bad. My emotional landscape is stable, and it’s making me very very happy. And content. I have never ever felt content before. For the first time in my life I am the master of my own emotions (other than when my child decides to hold the reins and deprive me of a good night’s sleep).

Along with this new appreciation for celibacy has come a weird revulsion for sex. It just seems so base these days. I’m like one of the vampires in True Blood, watching humans eat food in disgust. How primitive. Common. Below me. I feel nothing in my knickers when a hot butch walks past me on the street. I even briefly wondered if I’d somehow turned straight! Sex scenes bore me. Yuk. As if you’d want to touch someone else’s body if you didn’t have to. As IF.

Maybe it’s because I’m all touched out from my baby. We co-sleep, and they generally have my boob in their mouth for the majority of the night. In the day they are constantly touching me, wanting to be held, clinging to my leg. I also haven’t got my period yet, so maybe it’s hormonal, and at the first sight of blood it’ll come back with a vampiric vengeance. Or maybe I’ve just transcended and am now above the fleshy and primitive desires of the body. If only I believed in a god…

Holly’s Guide to Lazy Parenting

Holly’s Guide to Lazy Parenting

I like to do things the easy way, with the least amount of effort and/or stress. This applies to cleaning, studying, exercise, and yep, also to raising my child. Apparently I am doing something called attachment parenting. Many cultures just call it parenting, but hey, everything needs a brand in a capitalist world. Read more